For much of the Christian world, which marks time differently than the secular world, the new year begins with Advent, a period marked by the four Sundays prior to Christmas. For us, you see, Christmas will not be the year’s last hurrah, but the year’s first great celebration, and in anticipation of that celebration we do some important preparation. Not the kind that involves buying and wrapping and baking, but the kind that involves reflection, reorientation, and proclamation.
We reflect on the world in which we live, its beauty as belonging to God, but as well its “fallenness”, its need for redemption and re-creation after the pattern of God’s original purpose. We reorient our lives and perspectives to that coming redemption, the fullness of God’s Kingdom with us and for us. We proclaim that Christ is coming as our Savior and King. “Let ev’ry heart prepare him room; let heav’n and nature sing!”
The best way we know to do this, because we are disciples of Jesus, following the patterns of his coming, life, death, and resurrection, is to put ourselves into the story of his first Coming (that’s what “Advent” means). We are Israel, weary of bondage and oppression. We are the prophets of old, looking for the day of consolation. We are John the Baptist “preparing the way of the Lord” and calling the world with us to repentance. We know that soon a Light will dawn, that Zion will rejoice at the coming of her King, that the whole earth will be filled with his glory.
Not jumping headlong into holiday cheer like our market-driven heathen surroundings, we pause to feel the longing of the earth for God to come. We push away the plate a bit to underscore the fact that the feast that will satisfy is the Christ-mass to come. We pay attention to the cries of the world around us that often go unnoticed. We repent. We intercede. We wait.
Then while the world is playing with all of its new toys we will receive a greater gift. We receive anew the Christ child, the Redeemer of all things! As their year ends with empty bank accounts, ours begins with full hearts. Let us then, as Advent begins, make good preparation reflecting on the need of the world, reorienting for the world that is to come, and proclaming the good news of Him who is coming. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.